Monday, February 24, 2014

See the Ultimate Schoolyard Garden. then visit this weekend!

The Catawba River District and five partner organizations have coordinated the creation of the Ultimate Schoolyard Garden display at the Southern Spring Home and Garden Show, taking place last weekend and this coming weekend at the Park Expo Center on Independence Boulevard.
The Ultimate Schoolyard Garden features a whopping 18 separate displays within a single 30-by-30-foot exhibit space. Learn about:

  • Ozone gardens
  • International gardens
  • Aquaponics (where fish AND plants share nutrients and water)
  • Incorporating bees, goats and chickens into your school's natural area. Rain barrels
  • composting
  • Inviting wildlife into your outdoor garden area.

Henry Owen with Friendship Gardens put together this video tour of our exhibit. We hope you enjoy it.
Even better, we hope you go to the show, which runs Friday-Sunday at the Park Expo Center on Independence Boulevard. There's nothing like walking through the exhibit and seeing all of this in person!

Show details

See the Ultimate Schoolyard Garden Feb. 28-March 2 at the Southern Spring Home and Garden Show. CLICK for details of the show.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Speak As One Voice – Northwest Community Meeting

The Greater Catawba River District Neighbors invite you to a community meeting on Jan. 22 to discuss how we can address issues affecting northwest Mecklenburg and Charlotte. This meeting organized by the Catawba River District, MINO (Mountain Island Neighborhoods Organization), Coulwood Hills Community Council.
Here are details:

  • Time: 6-8 p.m. Wednesday., Jan. 22
  • Place: Pine Island Country Club, 1701 Stoneyridge Drive, Charlotte


  • Engage in your area of interest - 6-7pm
  1. Transportation (City and State Roads)
  2. Public Safety (Community Policing)
  3. Parks, Greenways and Sidewalks
  4. Neighborhood and Business Issues (Charlotte representatives)
  • Reports and priorities from engagement session
  • Introduction of elected officials (5 minutes to respond to our issues)
  • QAA
  • Light Refreshments will be provided. Pine Island will be open for tours.

Questions and additional information

Coordinators for this event are Edna Chirico with Catawba River District, Steve Swicegood with MINO and Gus Kretschmer with Coulwood Hills Community Council.
To learn more, Edna Chirico, 704 562-8847 or Kristin Davis, Neighborhood and Business Services 704.432.5394

Monday, December 9, 2013

GTN Charlotte's reach grows with new website, videos

Megan Lambert and Sean Cosby share a good-luck toast with sweet-potato smoothies
By Rich Haag
The Green Teacher Network for schoolyard garden advocates may be living up to its name in a new way – as a digital network for information and sharing.
Several groups involved in health, nutrition and education formed GTN Charlotte earlier this year to help share information among the many teachers and volunteers working in our area’s nearly 100 schoolyard gardens. Each quarterly workshop provides one major instructional program, additional information and time for participants to share and learn from one another.
But many teachers have a tough time getting away from school for half-day meetings. So GTN Charlotte has begun producing instructional videos, as well. You can find them on the group’s new website,

Our debut: “Gardening 101” in 14 short clips

Our first video offering as well as the new website went live last week. We took the keynote presentation at our Nov. 1 workshop, ”Gardening 101,” by Henry Owen of Friendship Gardens, and converted the 40-minute talk into 14 easy to watch segments.
Anyone can access the videos via the resources page at Segments cover topics such as “Getting teacher buy-in,” “Watering with kids,” and “Priceless advice.” Most clips are 2-5 minutes long.

Coming next: “Chefs in the Classroom" video series

We just posted the first of four cooking videos that we shot last week. The Chefs in the Classroom series features Megan Lambert, senior instructor at Johnson & Wales University, and Sean Cosby, a J&W graduate and personal chef. Each of them prepares two simple dishes using common schoolyard garden produce such as kale, onions and sweet potatoes. (Thanks to Piedmont Natural Gas for letting us use their kitchen at the PNG facility on Yancy Road.)
CLICK to watch chef Lambert prepare Plant Part Salad with Sweet Poppy-Seed Dressing.
Our Chefs in the Classroom videos will be available on the resource page of and on the Catawba River District’s YouTube channel, We’ll announce when they are ready to view at is live

Finally, the Catawba River District has created a new website for the Green Teacher Network. You can find it at The site will house learning resources such as the videos and other useful materials. We will also use it to handle event and newsletter registrations

Gardening 101 offers tips for launching schoolyard gardens

Henry Owen of Friendship Gardens shares tips in Gardening 101

See the Gardening 101 video clips

CLICK to visit our video site, where you can watch this presentation in brief segments

By Rich Haag
Teachers loved the jewel-case seedling garden.
Who knew that an old CD jewel case could help get both kids AND their teachers excited about schoolyard and classroom gardens?
Using the clear-plastic cases as 21st-century seed starters was among dozens of tips that teachers received on Nov. 1 at the Green Teacher Network fall workshop.
Henry Owen of Friendship Gardens spent close to an hour sharing ideas on how to launch a schoolyard garden with several dozen participants at the Green Teacher Network’s Nov. 1 gathering. What got his audience’s biggest response?
Seedlings sprouting in, of all things, old CD jewel cases.
“That got an even bigger reaction than the photos of my son,” Henry joked as dozens of teachers and garden volunteers oohed over a Powerpoint slide showing the novel planters.
The fledgling Green Teacher Network launched last summer as a way for people running gardens at nearly 100 area schools to network, learn and share with one another. The Catawba River District, Mecklenburg Food Policy Council, Mecklenburg Health Department and Friendship Gardens are sponsoring the network with strong support from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

Word spreading about GTN

In August, Darlene Petranic shared lessons with eggs.
The first event in August drew about 20 people; about 50 attended the event on Nov. 1 at CPCC’s Harris Campus.
Henry’s talk was the biggest attraction, even though more than half of the participants already have gardens up and running. He gave tips on how to create garden goals, assemble a strong team, gain needed buy-in by school administrators and teachers, find a good location, improve the soil and, whew! Finally begin planting seeds and seedlings. (You can see a dozen short video clips of Henry’s presentation at the Green Teacher Network website).
Also at the Nov. 1 event:

  • Regina Boyd, principal of Winterfield Elementary School, talked about the positive impact her gardens have had student learning. 
  • Darlene Petranick, the science lab teacher at Lebanon Road Elementary School, discussed small grants and other resources available from the NC Farm Bureau.
  • Teachers and garden volunteers took park in separate breakout sessions to talk about what they are doing. 

The next quarterly event will take place in February. Meanwhile, the coalition of sponsors are putting together on-line garden resources, including the website, a Google-Docs library, and social media to keep the talking and sharing going.

Learn more

Visit for additional information about the network and gardening resources and to sign up for the GTN Charlotte newsletter. Visit the website’s Resources page to view Gardening 101 videos.